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Massenet's Werther

From the Royal Opera House, Massenet's Werther, a dark drama of doomed love set against the stifling constrictions of a dull marriage. With Vittorio Grigolo and Joyce DiDonato.

Massenet's Werther

Vittorio Grigolo and Joyce DiDonato star in this performance of Massenet's dark drama of doomed love set against the stifling constrictions of a stultifying bourgeois marriage. Goethe's epistolary novel about the brooding Werther who develops an obsession for the unattainable Charlotte took Europe by storm in the 1770s. Massenet's operatic version focuses on the bitter-sweet pains and pleasures of a forbidden romance, with the lovers seemingly doing their best to make each other unhappy rather than accepting their fate. This revival of Benoît Jacquot's strikingly beautiful production for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is conducted by Antonio Pappano. Presented by Martin Handley, including interviews with the conductor, director and members of the cast.

Werther ..... Vittorio Grigolo (tenor)
Charlotte ..... Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano)
Albert ..... David Bizic (baritone)
Magistrate ..... Jonathan Summers (bass baritone)
Schmidt ..... Francois Piolino (tenor)
Johann ..... Yuriy Yurchuk (baritone)
Sophie ..... Heather Engebretson (soprano)
Käthchen ..... Emily Edmonds (mezzo-soprano)
Brühlmann ..... Rick Zwart (baritone)
Royal Opera House Chorus and Orchestra
Antonio Pappano (conductor)

* 6.40pm Act 1
* 7.30pm Act 2
* 8.00 Interval
* 8.25 Acts 3 & 4.

3 hours

Music Played

  • Jules Massenet

    Werther Act I

    Singer: Joyce DiDonato. Conductor: Sir Antonio Pappano. Singer: Vittorio Grigolo.
  • Jules Massenet

    Werther Act II

    Singer: Joyce DiDonato. Conductor: Sir Antonio Pappano. Singer: Vittorio Grigolo.
  • Jules Massenet

    Werther Acts III & IV

    Singer: Joyce DiDonato. Conductor: Sir Antonio Pappano. Singer: Vittorio Grigolo.
  • Jean‐Philippe Rameau

    Les Indes Galantes Suite (excerpts)

    Orchestra: Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. Conductor: Frans Brüggen.
    • Philips.


A village near Frankfurt towards the end of the 18th century

Act I

The garden of the Bailli’s house; an evening in JulyThe Bailli is rehearsing his children in a Christmas carol. Two friends, Johann and Schmidt,arrive and congratulate the children. Sophie, the second daughter of the Bailli, appears and they all discuss the ball set for that evening. Mention is made of Werther, a young poet staying in the neighbourhood, and Schmidt asks after Albert, fiancé to the Bailli’seldest daughter Charlotte, and who is soon to return to Wetzlar. Johann and Schmidt leave in anticipation of the evening’s drinking, the Bailli ushers his children indoors and Sophie goes to find Charlotte.

Werther arrives, overcome by the beauty and tranquility of the surroundings; hearing the rehearsal indoors he muses on the children’s innocent happiness. Charlotte enters,and Werther watches unobserved as she gives the children their tea. The Bailli notices Werther and presents the children and Charlotte to him. Werther is moved by Charlotte’s devotion to the children. Charlotte and Werther leave for the ball; Albert arrives and is greeted by Sophie. He asks if he is still remembered after six months’ absence.

Orchestral interlude: Moonlight

Charlotte and Werther return from the dance. He declares his love for her, and she tells him how her mother’s early death has left her to take care of the family. Werther becomes increasingly passionate until the Bailli calls from the house that Albert is back. Charlotte tells Werther of her promise to her dying mother to marry Albert. Werther is plunged into despair.

Act II

A Sunday in October, outside a church in Wetzlar

Three months have passed and Charlotte is now settled in her marriage to Albert. Asusual, Johann and Schmidt are drinking, while the organ can be heard from inside the church. Charlotte and Albert walk together to the Sunday service, observed by Werther who imagines the happiness with Charlotte that he has lost.

When Albert comes out of the church, he speaks kindly to Werther, acknowledging that he may have been in love with Charlotte before her marriage. Sophie interrupts the conversation by bringing a bunch of flowers for the Pastor, who is celebrating his golden wedding anniversary that day. Albert suggests to Werther that he think of marrying Sophie.

Charlotte arrives from the church. Werther’s obvious infatuation leads her to insist he leave and not return until Christmas. Werther’s immediate reaction is to think of suicide. He leaves. Albert, returning, sees Charlotte’s sadness at Werther’s departure.He understands that Werther is still in love with her.


Albert’s house on Christmas Eve

Missing Werther deeply, Charlotte rereads his letters to her and fears he might not return at Christmas. Sophie interrupts and tries in vain to console Charlotte. Left alone,Charlotte fervently prays to God for help.

Werther appears in the doorway. Depite Charlotte’s efforts to resist, their meeting turns increasingly to one of passion. Overcome by guilt, she bids Werther a final farewell and rushes from the room.

Albert returns, aware that Werther has been there. He summons Charlotte and notices her distress. A message arrives from Werther requesting the loan of Albert’s pistols.Albert commands Charlotte to give them to the messenger. Realizing Werther’s intention, Charlotte rushes after him.

Orchestral interlude: Christmas Eve

Act IV

Werther’s study later the same evening

Werther has shot himself. Charlotte arrives to find him dying, and confesses her love for him. Before he dies, he tells her where he wishes to be buried.